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Segregated Seattle

Mapping Race Seattle/King County 1940-2020

In 1960, Seattle was a tightly segregated city, fully committed to White supremacy. Most neighborhoods enforced racist exclusions, while people of color were consigned to the the Central Area and excluded altogether from most King County suburbs. Here we map the neighborhood-by-neighborhood distributions of African Americans, Asian Americans, Indigenous Americans, Latinos, and Whites across eight decades. These maps tell several stories, first showing the development of the tight pattern of segregation from 1940 to 1970, followed by the gradual opening in residential patterns, and most recently showing the eradication of Black neighborhoods in Central Seattle under gentrification pressures. Watch the changes on these maps by moving through the decades. Notice the changes in the Central District where census tracts that had become 90% Black in 1970 reversed demographics and became 11%, 14%, 18% Black in 2020. The transitions are detailed in our analytical report "Seattle's Race and Segregation Story in Maps 1920-2020."

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Note: categories sum to more than total population number. Latinos are counted twice in these data. The Census Bureau asks one question about Hispanic heritage and another about race, requiring Latinos to choose a non-Latinx race category. Many select "Other race" but the figures for White, Black, Asian, Indigenous, and multiracial also include some Latinos.

Note: race categories and census tracts change. The Census Bureau adds and adjusts the boundaries of census tracts nearly every decade. It also changes the data it reports and the racial categories. For 1940, all nonwhites were reported as a combined category. In 1950, this became two categories, “Negroes” and “Other races.” Since most of the “others” would have been Japanese, Chinese, and Filipinos with small numbers of Native Americans, we relabeled this as “Asian/other races.” It was not until 1970 that a reliable set of questions identified people of Hispanic heritage. That is also when Indigenous Americans were first identified in census tract data.

Credits: These maps and tables were created by Anna Yoon, Brian Lam, Gihoon Du, Jiang Wu, and Yurika Harada using data and shape files from the National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS). The work was a class project for Geography 469 GIS Workshop taught by Professor Sarah Elwood-Faustino Spring 2017. James Gregory added the 2020 maps.

Source: calculated from Steven Manson, Jonathan Schroeder, David Van Riper, and Steven Ruggles. IPUMS National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 12.0 [Database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. 2017.